Research Doesn't Offer Much Guidance on Turnarounds
Prescriptions are lacking for transforming failing schools.
Ever since U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called for turning around 5,000 of the nation’s worst-performing schools, the phone has been ringing steadily at the University of Virginia’s School Turnaround Specialist Program. Most of the calls are from educators looking for expert advice on how to go about transforming failing schools into success stories.
But if research-tested prescriptions for success are what those callers want, neither the center’s experts nor any other scholar may have much to offer. That’s because rigorous research on how to engineer the kind of dramatic transformation that Mr. Duncan is advocating is a scarce commodity, according to many scholars.
“There is both a lack of turnarounds in education and a lack of research about turnarounds,” said Bryan C. Hassel, a co-director of Public Impact, a Chapel Hill, N.C., consulting firm that has studied turnarounds in education and other fields. “And the research base for turnarounds outside of education isn’t any kind of ‘gold standard’ research base, either.” But he also maintains that the collected wisdom on the subject so far is strong enough to help...
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